Recruitment top of mind for Community Living Essex County

Executives at Community Living Essex County are working to fill staff shortages to improve working conditions and level of care at its facilities.

The union claims there are about 100 positions unfilled at the organization and that is leading to the practice of 'forced overtime".

Executive Director Karen Bolger said they are actually looking to fill around 55-60 positions because some facilities never reopened after the pandemic.

Despite that, Bolger said recruitment has been a challenge because of budget pressures and the lack of government incentive programs.

“Our funding hasn’t kept up with our costs,” said Bolger. “We’re solely funded by the Ministry of Children and Community Services. With 83.5 per cent of our budget going to salary and benefits, we do significant fundraising to offset budget shortfalls to help people with developmental disabilities live their best lives.”

Bolger said they are encouraging the government to implement incentive programs to attract people to the field of developmental services similar to those offered for personal support workers.

"They get free tuition, there's so many incentives, they get bonuses when they work for a certain period of time afterwards to have their placements," said Bolger. "It's been helpful for those sectors but the unintended consequence of that is there are less people coming into developmental services."

Community Living Essex County is currently negotiating a contract with its 600 employees represented by CUPE Local 3137.

The union indicated wages and working conditions are their top concerns.

Bolger said they are aware of the union's concerns and have been working hard to find solutions.

"I am frustrated with the inability to have a full complement of staff. I know that our union is frustrated our employees are frustrated, we're all frustrated but we are working really hard to address it," said Bolger.

The two sides will meet with a conciliator on February 21, 2024.

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